lnu.sePublications
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
The Local Education Authority’s Implementation of a Capacity-building model for school improvement – obstacles and possibilities
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education and Teacher's Practice. (SITE)
(SITE)
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

General description on research questions, objectives and theoretical framework (600 words)

In school systems around the world, there is an increasing focus on pupils’ academic achievements and school results. This has resulted in an intensified control of pupils’ levels of achievement (cf. PISA) and increasing demands for school actors and decision-makers to improve schools. In this respect, Sweden is no exception. Ages of declining student achievement, decreased equality between schools have spurred an intensive critique against the Swedish school system and triggered a more state-regulated governing of the school system in terms of several national reforms, which altogether aim to take control over the schools’ outcome (Wahlström & Sundberg, 2017; Adolfsson, 2018). In light of such a policy movement the Local Education Authorities (LEA) and schools’ responsibility for pupils’ achievement and equality have been highlighted and strengthened in Swedish policy. In addition, to ensure the quality of the teaching and the professionalism of the teachers, a revision of the Swedish Education Act was carried out in 2010. This revision stipulated, among other things, that all schools and local school authorities must conduct a systematic improvement work. This had led to a discussion of how school on a local basis can build capacity to improve themselves. In this context, LEA, in the Swedish municipalities, have become important policy actors (Wahlström & Sundberg, 2017b). To strengthen the schools own capacity for improvement, but also to increase the control over the schools’ processes and outcomes, the construction and implementation of different quality systems has been an important strategy for the local education authorities (Adolfsson & Alvunger, 2017; Håkansson & Sundberg, 2016).

In this paper, we will put this ‘meso-level’, i.e. the relationship between LEA and the schools, in focus. We mean that this is an important, but many times overlooked, relationship when it comes to understand processes and outcomes related to the implementation of local quality systems and school improvement initiatives (Rorrer, Skrla & Scheurich, 2008). Based on an ongoing three-year research project in a major municipality in Sweden, the overall aim is to investigate a LEA: s attempt to implement a new quality system at the schools in the municipality, as a way to control and strengthen the schools’ improvement work. The following research questions are addressed in the paper:

1. How and which central aspects of the schools’ improvement work tries LEA control and strengthened through the implementation of a new quality system?

2. In what w   ay do school actors respond to LES’s attempt to implement the quality system?

3. Which different factors can be distinguished as notably important for the outcome of the implementation process?

The relationship between the LED and the current schools are understood and analysed from a neo-institutional theoretical perspective (Scott, 2008). From this perspective, three dimensions can be highlighted regarding how institutions (in this case the LED and the current schools) seek to control and affect other institutions, respond to external pressure and seek legitimacy: regulative (rules and sanctions), normative (prevalent norms, expectations and ideals ), and cognitive-cultural/discursive (shared conceptions and frames of meaning-making). This perspective enable us to elucidate the character of the different strategies and actions that LED undertake in the implementation of the new quality model. To understand the implementation processes that occurred at the different schools, theoretical inspiration is acquired from implementation theory (Fixen et al. 2005; Lundquist, 1987; Lipsky, 1980). This theory put analytical focus on central implementation factors such as clarity, school actors knowledge, legitimacy, time, leadership, organisation, school culture etc, which thus help us to understand the result of the implementation processes of the different schools. 

Methods/methodology (400 words)

The overall research project, which this specific study is conducted within, has a mixed-method inspired design. The aim with such an approach is to deepening the understanding of the current research questions being addressed through obtaining different, but complementary data on the phenomenon that stand in focus for the study (Cresswell, 2010; Cresswell and Clark, 2007). In this specific sub-study, we have followed the education authority’s implementation process at six different schools in the current municipality. The current schools are located in areas with differences in socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds and each school was followed for a school year, which made it possible to contextually place and understand the implementation process within the structure, organization and culture of the schools.

In line with the theoretical points of departure and the general aim to elucidate patterns of the local school authority’s implementation of the new quality system and school actors’ understanding and response of the quality system, following methods and empirical data have been used. i) content analysis of central policy documents ii)  observations (n=xx) iii) 24 semi-structured interviews with key actors at the different schools (n=50). Accordingly, an extensive empirical material have been collected. To conduct a contextual understanding of each school, central documents regarding the local schools’ organisation, policy and vision, leading and management structure, pupils’ achievement, school improvement strategies were at a first step analysed. This contextual understanding was important for the next step, when data related to LEA implementation of the new quality system at the single schools were collected. This was carried out through participating observations at the different kinds of meetings that occurred amongst LEA and the current schools. Finally, as a way to deepen the understanding of the school actors’ response to the new quality system, semi-structured interviews with central key actors at the single school were carried out.

 

Expected outcomes (300 words)

The relationship between the LEA and the schools will finally be discussed and problematized in light of the following preliminary results:

-          The implementation of the quality system occurred through a number of steps: 1. an introduction meeting between represents from the LEA and key actors from the schools 2. a quality dialogue two months later and 3. a quality seminary arranged by the LEA where the principals from the involving schools were participating. In contrast to a more traditional ‘regulative’ strategy of governing the schools, the LEA’s implementation of the current quality system, in terms of these different activities, was characterized by a more normative and discursive way of controlling the schools’ improvement work (i.e. soft governance).

-          We could distinguish a variety in the initial stage of the implementation process regarding in what degree the school actors consider the LEA’s quality system as legitimate. The same variety between the schools was notably concerning how they perceived the idea and the purpose behind the new quality system but also how LEA’s system should be incorporated with their own local quality systems.

-          Factors that may explain these differences in the implementation process is firstly, a notably ‘knowledge-gap’, that existed between the schools. That is, principals and other key actors’ knowledge and competencies about local systematic quality work in terms of, for example, data collection, interpretation and using different methods of analysis, seem to be crucial for the implementation process. A second crucial factor seems to be how the principals organized his or her school improvement work, including delegation of responsibility and how different school actors’ knowledge and competencies were used in an appropriate way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
Keywords [en]
Local education authority (LEA), School improvement, Quality system, implementation theory
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-89195OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-89195DiVA, id: diva2:1352699
Conference
ECER 2019 in Hamburg -"Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future"
Available from: 2019-09-19 Created: 2019-09-19 Last updated: 2019-09-19

Open Access in DiVA

No full text in DiVA

Authority records BETA

Adolfsson, Carl-Henrik

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Adolfsson, Carl-Henrik
By organisation
Department of Education and Teacher's Practice
Social Sciences

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar

urn-nbn

Altmetric score

urn-nbn
Total: 31 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf